Hudson Yards, a controversial $25 billion real estate development along the Hudson River in New York, is already home to new tenants like Wells Fargo and CNN. The clutch of giant glass buildings is visible from New Jersey. But the one building you won’t see until you get closer is The Shed, a small, futuristic structure with a movable outer shell that can extend to double its footprint.
The live-music and arts space, which will open April 5 and commission work “across all forms, for all audiences,” according to The Shed artistic director/CEO Alex Poots, is one of the few major creative centers to be built in Manhattan since the 1960s. Some of what The Shed presents can be likened to a 21st-century version of uptown’s Lincoln Center with its big-box, big-ticket aesthetic. In the first few months, The Shed will present a new show from Björk called Cornucopia; a collaboration between composers Steve Reich and Arvo Pärt and visual artist Gerhard Richter; and a five-night concert series celebrating the impact of African-American musicians on contemporary culture titled “Soundtrack of America.” To help fill its entertainment calendar, The Shed sent out an open call last March to early-career artists in the performing arts, visual arts and popular music — and received over 900 applications.
Outside of live events, chief civic programs officer Tamara McCaw says The Shed is working with residents and tenant leaders at the nearby Fulton and Chelsea-Elliot housing projects to offer well-rounded and affordable programming. Its first effort is already underway: the free dance activism program FlexNYC, which launched in 2016 and pairs professionally trained dancers with over 400 students from all five of the city’s boroughs. Now, they’ll have a space to practice in The Shed’s rehearsal studios.
On par with what the venue offers is how it functions: as a not-for-profit that lies on city land, while everything else in Hudson Yards is privatized. “We’re a part of the city,” says Poots. And as such, The Shed’s mission is to serve the existing communities of the city rather than the 1 percent catered to by the shops and co-ops of Hudson Yards. Which is why up to 10 percent of all performance tickets will be priced at $10, including front-row seats. Says McCaw: “We don’t want [The Shed] to be yet one more thing that’s not for the communities in the area.”